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Performance Professor Receives Critics Circle Awards

The Richmond Theatre Critics Circle presented Stacey with an individual award for Best Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Eliza Doolittle in Virginia Repertory Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady. Virginia Rep also garnered the RTCC award for Best Musical for their production of Spring Awakening, where Stacey served as the Voice, Text and Dialect Coach. Finally, Firehouse Theatre Project’s production of Dessa Rose—where Stacey played the role of Ruth Sutton—garnered the RTCC People’s Choice Award.

1. This must be very exciting for you! Has your work been recognized this publicly in the past?

I’ve had the pleasure of acting professionally for the last fifteen years, and the most gratifying experience has been connecting with audience members after performances, hearing folks say things like: “your work moved me to tears,” or “your performance made me rethink my opinion on [x]” or “this was my child’s first play and he/she was in silent awe the entire time.” For me, awards are extension of that expression- a critical or public recognition that the art resonated with those who encountered it.

It’s been my great joy to be a part of many artistic experiences that have garnered such attention. Some of those experiences include: numerous Helen Hayes award-winning productions at The Shakespeare Theatre (which, incidentally, won the regional Tony award last year), as well as the award-winning films “Unmoored” (Trillium Studios) and “I Want You to Know” (Last House Productions). In recent years, my heart has been in the classroom, and I’ve been grateful to receive several awards for teaching and excellence.

2. Two of your contributions were as an actor. Can you talk about the work you did on Spring Awakening?

I was fortunate to develop a close working relationship with Virginia Repertory Theatre as a voice, text and dialect coach. The Associate Artistic Director, Chase Kniffen, and I worked together on several productions where I was hired to work closely with the director and cast on the vocal/verbal storytelling. In the case of Spring Awakening, the scope of our work was wide ranging. Because the cast included teenage performers to mature adults, we felt it important to empower the performers with techniques and vocabulary so that everyone was figuratively speaking the same theatrical language. As a result, I led the cast through workshops on healthy vocal practice for rock singing, textual analysis, dialect work and pronunciation, and Alexander technique. I also had the great pleasure of assisting Chase in scene work, helping the actors find rhetorical nuances and character clues in the richly poetic lyrics. Additionally, I coached each performer individually, ensuring their safety, clarity, and efficacy through speech and song. Ultimately, I think our attention to textual detail and the production’s unique concept (as distinct from the Broadway or tour productions) led to its unique impact.

3. Both types of experiences must be very rewarding in different ways. Can you talk about that a little?

As a performer, I am profoundly excited to viscerally, imaginatively, and emotionally encounter material, which is different from my experience as a coach/teacher, an often intellectual and strategic modality. My experience as Eliza Doolittle was especially personally resonant, as I drew upon many of my struggles with dialect modification, class, and self realization. I’m still wrestling with those concepts and would love to explore the role again someday.

As a coach and teacher, I enjoy the sense of altruistic invisibility. I know that my work has been successful if it’s invisible, that is, if the audience isn’t conscious of the actor’s technique, but responsive to its efficacy. If I have empowered the actor(s) to feel confident, clear and commanding, I am honored to sit in rapt attention with the rest of the audience.

4. Are you excited about bringing those elements into your work here at Pitt? In what ways?

I hope to share with my students my sense of insatiable curiosity about human behavior, and my sense of wonder at theatre’s transformative power. In my career, I’ve been fortunate to explore some of the greatest roles in the western canon; now I’m excited to facilitate my students’ exploration of their dream roles, giving them the tools and the knowledge to be successful (by their own measurement.)

5. What’s your favorite thing about Pittsburgh/Pitt so far?

 Just one?

My favorite thing about Pittsburgh so far is the view of the skyline from the top of the golf course in Schenley Park at sunrise. Expansive. Impressive. Awe-inspiring.

My favorite thing about Pitt, aside from the wonderful Quidditch matches on the Cathedral Lawn, has been the hunger of the students. They have exhibited such ambition, dedication, and passion for their work; that inspires me to bring my best into the classroom every day.

Learn more about Stacey here.